Miss Mole explores the quandary of primary aged children playing a very popular PEGI 12 game
Fortnite is THE latest game craze, and we have noticed that so many of the Coldfall children are playing it. In response to some parents asking, “should my child be playing Fortnite?” here are some facts that will help you decide what you would like to do:
The PEGI rating for the game Fortnite is 12. You can find out more about PEGI ratings HERE, but that means that a regulatory body for games deems it unsuitable for children under 12 years of age.
But why? Well, one thing is that it has realistic violence and weaponry; it doesn’t show any blood (the PEGI rating would increase if so), but it shows people shooting each other with realistic looking guns, and players are put in to “combat” situations. Another reason that it is a 12 is that you have to “sign up” to play. By setting the age range to 12, the game makers ensure that the child’s consent to hand over name and email details to the company is a considered one.
There is also the ability to chat to each other and type messages, none of which are screened for bad language or abuse. If your child plays Fortnite, they will probably hear swearing unless you turn off all chat functions.
Now, before you ban your child from Fortnite forever, there are ways you could let them play it safely if you wanted to. It is a fun, popular strategy game they can bond over with their friends and if they aren’t allowed to play it at home, they may go somewhere they can, and then you can’t supervise their gameplay.
Therefore I would recommend you perhaps consider the following, if your child is already playing Fortnite and only if you are comfortable to do so:
Think about playing the game with your child to see what all the fuss is about. They would probably really like that you are interested in their world. You can then see whether you find it suitable, as you know your child the best and what they can cope with. It will also give you an opportunity to openly discuss what they like/ dislike about the game and what has come up for them.
Set the parental controls. You can turn off the voice chat, and some consoles allow you to turn off the text chat too if you want to. Show your child the “block and report” functions of the game and empower them to use them responsibly for people who are abusive and unkind (not just for people they don’t like).
Be open about it. Encourage them to have honest conversations with you about the game so that if anything does come up they won’t feel worried about telling you. There is nothing like the feeling that you might be told off to drive a child in to secret surfing or gaming. Fostering honest and open conversations will give them the confidence to share with you when they get in trouble online.
Have them play the game in the same room as you with the sound on. I know it is tempting to let them get on with it so that you can have some peace, however, as parents we teach children the right and wrong ways to play with each other offline by supervising their initial play. Later on we may let them go off with a friend on a play date when they are a bit older. We need to do the same online too, until we know they are kind, responsible and safe.
You ultimately need to decide whether you are comfortable with your child playing this game. If it was something like Grand Theft Auto, which has a clear 18+ rating then we would say outright that this is not in any way suitable for primary age children. Although we are not promoting the use of Fortnite as a school because of its age rating, we understand that it is a decision for families to make together about its suitability.
As it stands, the biggest concern that we are focused on as a school is children being kind and safe whilst online, and whether children are having too much screen time in general, and whether the screen time is being unsupervised i.e in bedrooms, or on personal devices.
Ensure your child knows what to do if they feel bullied, or feel like someone is being inappropriate to them. We teach them at school that they should not retaliate, or give personal information. And that they need to tell their adult and let the adult see what has been said/ shown if it is on screen.
It is also important to note that older siblings and other family members should also be aware of the online safety steps so that they don’t encourage the use of things that your child may not be ready for.
The full details of what we teach are HERE on the school website.
And before I go, I’d like to mention something that comes up more and more around health and internet/ game use. Technology is an amazing resource, and it can be so much fun and an aid to developmental growth in some ways. It can also have negative effects on physical and mental health if used to excess.
If your child is choosing the PC, console or tablet instead of socialising with friends and family, homework, or even sleep then you need to have an honest discussion with them. Set boundaries and clear expectation, without telling them off or getting angry, and above all, explain why you need to set the boundary. Even though children may not understand all the things grown ups do, they need to know that you’re not just being a “bossy grownup”.
If your child’s mood or personality changes drastically, or if they become non-communicative or secretive, consider whether there could be an Online safety issue. Please feel free to contact the school if you are worried, and remember that if there is an emergency situation where you feel your child may be in danger please contact the police. If you feel as though a child may be being exploited online please report this to CEOP
If you would like to find out more about Fortnite, I recommend reading this blog post from “Tom’s Guide”:
If you have any comments or suggestions, or requests for other topics then please contact me through the school office and I will be glad to hear them.
Laura Mole works at Coldfall with the children to ensure online safety around the school.
She works with teaching staff, pupils and parents to develop ways of keeping children safe online,
with open discussion, collaborative thinking and using best practice guidance from the latest sources.
She is always happy to discuss ways of developing the school’s provision with parents and carers.